LAPS looks at land deals

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District seeks to shore up funding gaps

By Jennifer Garcia

With an already tight budget and $600,000 less coming from state funding, Los Alamos Public Schools is looking for ways to find money.

The district currently owns property at 288 DP Road, known as parcel A-15. On Jan. 11, 2006, the federal government transferred the land to the LAPS district and though the land has been vacant, there may be a possibility that the district could soon see rental dollars coming in for that property.

In December 2010, the school district submitted a rezoning application for the property, asking that it be changed from F-L (federal land) zoning to M-2 (Heavy Industrial) zoning. That request was granted and the land now has an M-2 zoning.

At last week’s work session at Mountain Elementary, Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe said that the school board has discussed the possibility of leasing a portion of A-15 to Brad Parker and perhaps doing a land swap with John Courtright, who owns property behind Chili Works on Trinity Drive.

Discussion on a possible land swap with Courtright and the possibility of leasing a portion of the DP Road property to Parker began last fall. At that time, the school board gave Wolfe direction to move forward with the negotiations.

If all goes as planned, Parker would lease two acres and the district would swap two acres of the A-15 property for Courtright’s property behind Chili Works. The balance of the 7.5 acres would remain district property.

During the meeting, School Board Vice President Kevin Honnell asked Parker what his interest in that particular piece of property is.

“We want to get as far away from the crap that’s up the road,” Parker said, referring to the TA-21 cleanup on DP Road. “This is more appealing to me. We want to use it to store equipment. We’re looking for an area that’s the right zoning.”

He then told Honnell that Courtright intends to put storage units on the property, should a swap be made.

Wolfe said that Parker wants to do a short-term, five-year lease with an option to buy. He also said that he wanted to make Parker’s intentions clear to the board before discussion went any further.

Parker said that even though they would initially be leasing the two acres, he would ultimately like to buy the property.

“We can’t put a building up on leased property,” Parker said. “The option of buying is our optimum goal.”

He said he’d like to do a lease-to-buy option, if possible, however School Board President Melanie McKinley said she didn’t think that the district could legally do a lease-to-buy arrangement.

Wolfe said that Courtright is waiting to hear about the valuation for his property before anything is done.

“We don’t know what the value of his property would be,” Wolfe said. “We could swap like value property for like value property,” he said.

Once the valuation appraisal is done, the swap would have to go through the proper channels for approval, starting with the State Board of Finance.